Suddenly Blind for Two Minutes and No One Noticed Her Panic

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A recent incident in which my friend became temporarily blind got me thinking about awareness, in particular, being aware of one’s surroundings (a popular topic for martial artists and ninja enthusiasts). Here’s the excerpt of our conversation.

“Have you ever been blind temporarily?”, my friend suddenly asked.

“Blacking out or an actual loss of sight?”, I clarified.

“Loss of sight.”

“Nope… Why?”

Something was amiss and her look of worry confirmed that.

“Nah… It’s just that my vision was gone for two minutes while on the train.”

“What!? Didn’t you panic? No one noticed your expression?”

“A little… But no one noticed. Last I saw, everyone was using their phones.”

Though absurd, it was no surprise that no one noticed the distraught expression of a fellow commuter who had gone blind. Most train passengers on morning commute would be either asleep or engrossed with their phones.

In martial arts, awareness is a requirement for effective self-defence. On a basic level, being situationally aware forewarns you of danger before and when it happens. On the next level, awareness allows you to intuitively know your immediate environment to better prepare youself for a fight-or-flight response; to know your escape route and objects that can be used for personal protection (as weapons or obstacles to hide behind). This outlines the common thought about awareness – to avoid danger.

Another application of awareness has to do with courtesy and respect, something that is sadly lost on many people. On my commute to work during rush hour, I have lost count of the times I yelled “excuse me” in frustration when someone chooses to use their phones while walking. They inadvertently block the crowds of people rushing to work and occasionally knock into other commuters from being distracted. This lack of awareness might even be hazardous. To put it bluntly, you are asking for it if you choose to keep your eyes on your phone while crossing the road and get knocked down. Some would call this natural selection at work.

Using phone while meeting with friends

On the same topic of awareness and courtesy, I have observed individuals being distracted by their phones while conversing with someone else. While this is a mark of being discourteous, the consequence of not being aware in a conversation can be far worse than disrespect. What if the person you were speaking with was trying to broach a sensitive topic or needed some form of attention? This means a lot to someone who is going through a tough situation. Maybe, the act of just looking up from the damn phone would save someone who is suicidal.

And this brings me back full circle to my friend who was blind for two minutes. Being aware could save someone from a bad day or even death. It wasn’t until that conversation that it occurred to me that one of the purposes of awareness is to save someone else; an act of compassion. We do have a duty to other people, don’t we?

Awareness is noticing, knowing and responding. How do you become more aware of your surroundings? Start by cutting away modern-day distractions and stop multi-tasking. Look up from your phone more often and turn off your headphones.

And if you are walking, crossing the road or driving, put that damn phone away! Don’t be a nuisance to others and a hazard to yourself.

  1. Noel Green says

    Excellent thoughts!

    About 7 years ago I stopped drinking sodas… specifically diet “Pepsi ONE” which I drank at least 2 “cubes” of (48+ cans) a week. When I stopped I suddenly had withdrawals from the aspartame and would, very literally, go blind for about 1 hour a day right around 2 pm in the afternoon. It stopped after a little over a week and had tapered down to shorter amounts of time during that 7 days: it was very disconcerting to say the least.

    I’m also one of those “strange” people who will not look at my phone while in the car. It stays in my pocket until I’m parked — or I will pull off the road if I must text/talk/etc. I too am always amazed more than annoyed at people on their phones in public. Usually they are completely unaware of me all together as I pass by them.

    Last semi-relevant thought. I worked at an amusement park for a while years ago and learned to walk the entire park, on a crowded day, in about 7 minutes — something which took most people 35 minutes or more. I taught myself to watch 5 or 6 “people” / “people groups” ahead and anticipate what they were gonna do by their subtle actions, foot positions, etc., etc. So are those people about to stop dead middle of the path? I’ll go around to the right. But, if I go to the right will I run into those people who are currently to the left but are obviously about to change direction and go right as well? Stuff like that. All split second choices.

    I got so good at watching people and anticipating their movements I still do it on a subconscious level and even put it to use on television as a background extra. Directors would call me me to do “walk-throughs” where I had to dodge cars, cameras, people, even goats one time because they knew I could do it and not muck-up the shot. 🙂

    1. says

      Oh wow. I taught myself to watch, anticipate and make quick judgment calls on peoples’ movements as well, from the need to navigate through the rush hour crowds quickly without knocking into them. Of course I did knock into a few (when sleep deprived); I get stupid and excessively impatient without enough sleep.

      And thank goodness your short blindness wasn’t permanent. Makes me thankful that I don’t feel the urge to drink sodas.

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